Money is moving into the speciality sector, providing light in the gloom of relentless price squeezes Speciality bread is proving to be the best thing since sliced bread. Whether Irish, Indian or Mediterranean it's there for the asking and tempting people to be more extravagant and adventurous in the choices they make. And it's cool to be seen snacking with. Stuffed pittas and spicy wraps have invaded lunchboxes, while enterprising cooks have found that naan bread is perfect for pizza bases. The pricing issues that dog standard wrapped bread are not a reality here. Consumers will pay more for authenticity, and retailers who have dedicated more space to speciality bread are reaping the rewards. Belfast based Ormeau Bakery has multiple listings for traditional Irish breads such as farls, barmbrack, fruit loaves and organic wheatens, and the company is keen to move into the UK independent sector. Sales and marketing director Stuart McCulloch says: "We believe the decrease in sales of white, wholemeal and brown bread will work in our favour in the UK, moving expenditure into the speciality bread sector where we are focusing research and development, and where the most potential lies in the UK market." Improving recipes of existing products by, for example, adding mature Cheddar and smoked bacon to soda farls and cracked pepper to potato farls, has helped to counter margins which have been squeezed since the arrival of multiples such as Tesco and Sainsbury in Northern Ireland. Rival Irwin's Bakery has also been successful in Great Britain with its traditional Irish products. But it has now taken a healthier route with vitamin enriched bread and rolls containing extra calcium and folic acid, but less salt and fat, and a higher fibre content. Patak's research into consumer usage and attitudes to Indian food show that while Indian restaurant food has influenced our eating, home usage of naan bread exceeded that used in restaurants. Sales and marketing director Alison Cannon says: "People use naan for a variety of things such as sandwiches and pizza bases, not only Indian meals. Kids particularly prefer naan bread to rice." Patak's acquisition of Galtres Foods, formerly Abel Eastern Foods, and a £1m investment in the site has equipped it to go head to head with rival Sharwood's on the naan front. In addition it has launched its first branded, teardrop shaped ambient naan in four varieties. Patak's claims the buoyant ambient Indian bread sector, worth £19.1m, is up 23% year on year, while the growth of fresh Indian bread is static at £20.7m. One reason for growth, says Cannon, is that shelf life is unimportant because most people freeze it after purchase. Honeytop claims to hold a 43% share of the total naan category. Like Patak's, Honeytop Speciality Foods has given its packaging a new look for stronger on shelf appeal. Its latest lines are plain and peshwari naan for fast food giant McDonald's to make Indian style sandwiches. Managing director Charles Eid says: "Naan is no longer viewed purely as a traditional accompaniment to an Indian dish. New products which demonstrate the real versatility of the bread are now being developed." Pride Valley Foods specialises in flat breads and says that last year there was a 20% growth in total speciality breads, with tortilla wraps in particular taking more than 10% of sales. Bogofs, price marked packs and added value packs, it says, are the best way to support the brand. Managing director Andrew Cross says: "Promotions are important for stimulating interest and driving volume. "However, more can be done to assist category growth through consumer education and product trial. Trial size sample packs, link promotions and cross merchandising are all areas to be explored." German bread's six month shelf life is seen as a strong selling point. Food distributor Andutra's is encouraging trial with a 500g pack called the German Bread Basket which offers 10 slices of individually wrapped five German breads ­ pumpernickel, whole rye, linseed, fitness bread (a rye bread with oat and wheatgerm) and sunflower seed. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}